Extending Your Home in a Conservation Area
We are generally used to the fact that we can’t just build a large extension without getting permission, but extending in a conservation area puts an extra layer of complexity on the matter. There are over eight thousand conservation areas in the United Kingdom, most of them in urban areas, so it wouldn’t be a surprise to find out that you live in one.
What is a Conservation Area?Conservation areas are places that have been deemed of architectural or historic interest and it is considered important to preserve them as they are, preventing too much change. Having said that, planners do realise that it is better to have buildings adapted for modern living, so that they will continue to be used, rather than left empty and going to rack and ruin.
How do you find out if you are in a conservation area? Most regional councils have information on their websites that will tell you about the conservation areas under their jurisdiction.
If you are unsure which council to approach for your area then go to the conservation area section of the government’s direct.gov site where you can put in your postcode or street and town to find out. The search will give you a link straight to the conservation area page on the council’s website, if there is one.
Applying for Permission in a Conservation AreaThere aren’t any special application forms or hoops to jump through if you live in a conservation area. You simply apply for planning permission as you normally would. But as well as looking at the planning application for the usual things, the planners will also refer to the rules governing the conservation area.
The only way in which the actual process changes is that there are some extensions that you can do today without applying for planning permission. But in a conservation area you are likely to have to apply for planning permission for those anyway, even if the overall planning regulations say you don’t have to.
There are also a lot of peripheral changes that you will need permission for if your extension affect the area surrounding it. Examples are demolishing a building of more than a certain size and taking down or altering boundary fences, gates or walls.
Finding Out What is AcceptableSome councils have detailed guidelines on their websites for what they consider to be appropriate and inappropriate modifications. But others don’t, preferring to treat every case separately. You can always phone or get an appointment to meet someone at the local planning office.
Note that planners would much rather advise as to what’s appropriate (or rather, what isn’t) before you start. Then they don’t have to go through the aggravation of enforcement notices and court action later.
Can You Get Away Without Permission?It’s a question that many people putting up an extension will ask themselves: rather than going through all the aggravation of applying for planning permission, why don’t I just do it anyway? Will anyone notice?
Well, maybe, maybe not. You will have noticed that we have referred to websites quite a lot during this article. The councils and the government really are putting a lot of information out on websites now and that makes it easy to find. But beware, it’s a two way street.
There’s also lots of links and handy hints that show how and where to report a planning breach. So don’t rely on the planners never finding out for themselves, they have an army of neighbours out there working for them!